Keeper baffled by bee 'sting'

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The Independent Online
THE BUZZ among the experts is that only an experienced keeper could have stolen half a million bees from Mick Barker's field at the dead of night without being badly stung during the sting.

But although the rustlers' haul included two hives of rare yellow New Zealand bees, the motive for such a well-organised operation baffles Mr Barker, who farms near Northallerton, North Yorkshire.

The thieves must have arrived after 9.30pm, to ensure that the bees had gone to bed, worn protective clothing, and moved swiftly to block the hive entrances with foam, before loading the entire colony into a truck.

Mr Barker said: 'Nobody in their right mind would do that because the bees were only worth about pounds 50 and the hives pounds 200. There is no shortage of bees and most will be dead within four weeks.

'I have asked every beekeeper I know what the motive might be, but nobody can come up with an answer. But it has got to be another beekeeper who knew what he was doing as you have got to sneak up and get in quick.'

Mr Barker's most immediate beekeeping neighbours around the village of East Harlsey are not under suspicion because the bees would have be moved at least three miles to avoid them swarming back to their old home.

As well as the New Zealand bees, amiable creatures likely to have gone along quietly, there were eight hives containing the more common but much grumpier British brown bees, who would have attacked the thieves given a chance.

Mr Barker, 54, who has kept bees for 12 years, admitted yesterday that he is more upset about losing half his red cedar hives, which he designed and built himself, than about the bees.

He said: 'The hives are more important to me because they are part of a set and losing them is like losing half of a treasured chess set.'